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Personality Psychology Study Guide

Overview of Personality

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Are you ready for your personality psychology exam? Whether you're prepping for the big test or just trying to learn more about the subject before you sign up for your first course, this personality study guide can help you get a solid grasp of the basics.

What is Personality?

First, we must start by answering the most basic question: What is personality? Personality is made up the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make a person unique. Researchers have found while some external factors can influence how certain traits are expressed, personality originates within the individual. While a few aspects of personality may change as we grow older, personality tends to remain fairly consistent throughout life.

Personality psychologists are interested in the unique characteristics of individuals, as well as similarities among groups of people.

In this first section of our personality study guide, start by learning more about how psychologists define personality: What is Personality?

Characteristics of Personality

Next, let's look as some of the key characteristics of personality:

  1. Personality is organized and consistent. We tend to express certain aspects of our personality in different situations and our responses are generally stable.

  2. Personality is psychological, but is influenced by biological needs and processes. For example, while your personality might lead you to be shy in social situations, an emergency situation might lead you to take on a more outspoken and take-charge approach.

  3. Personality causes behaviors to happen. You react to the people and objects in your environment based on your personality. From your personal preferences to your choice of a career, every aspect of your life is affected by your personality.

  4. Personality is displayed through thoughts, feelings, behaviors and many other ways.

The Study of Personality

Now that you know a bit more about the basics of personality, it's time to take a closer look at how scientists actually study human personality.

There are a number of different techniques that are used in the study of personality. Each technique has its own strengths and weaknesses.

  • Experimental methods are those in which the researcher controls and manipulates the variables of interests and takes measures of the results. This is the most scientific form of research, but experimental research can be difficult when studying aspects of personality such as motivations, emotions, and drives. These ideas are internal, abstract, and extremely difficult to measure.

  • Case studies and self-report methods involve the in-depth analysis of an individual as well as information provided by the individual. Case studies rely heavily on the interpretation of the observer, while self-report methods depend upon the memory of the individual of interest. Because of this, these methods tend to be highly subjective and it is difficult to generalize the findings to a larger population.

  • Clinical research relies upon information gathered from clinical patients over the course of treatment. Many personality theories are based upon this type of research, but because the research subjects are unique and exhibit abnormal behavior, this research tends to be highly subjective and difficult to generalize.

Next, learn more about some of the basic research methods used by psychology researchers: Introduction to Psychology Research Methods

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